2011 in review
Navy dismisses 23 commanding officers for misconduct
By MATT BURKE | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 27, 2011
The Navy continued to clean house in 2011, with 23 commanding officers fired for various levels of improper conduct.
While the number didn’t pass the recent high-water mark of 26 in 2003, it caused alarm because many of the commanders were fired for personal misconduct.
There were poor decisions: Rear Adm. Ron Horton, commander of Logistics Group Western Pacific, and Capt. Owen Honors, commander of the USS Enterprise, were both fired after it was discovered that Honors had made and appeared in a series of racy videos that were broadcast shipwide on the Enterprise while he was executive officer and Horton was in charge.
There were alcohol-related issues: Cmdr. Timothy Murphy, commander of Electronic Attack Squadron 129; Cmdr. Laredo Bell, commander of Naval Support Activity Saratoga Springs; and Cmdr. Karl Pugh, commander of Electronic Attack Squadron 141, were fired for incidents involving alcohol.
There were issues involving the opposite sex: Capt. Donald Hornbeck, commander of Destroyer Squadron 1, was relieved in April during an investigation into allegations of an inappropriate relationship. Cmdr. Jonathan Jackson, commanding officer of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 134, was relieved Dec. 8 after an investigation revealed he violated the Navy’s sexual harassment policy.
The most glaring sex offenses were perpetrated by Cmdr. Jay Wylie, former commander of the USS Momsen, who was relieved April 27 due to a loss of confidence in his ability to command stemming from allegations of misconduct. Wylie later pleaded guilty to raping two female sailors under his command and was sentenced to 42 months in prison.
And there was the endangering of human lives: Capt. Etta Jones, commander of the USS Ponce, was fired in April for failure to report hazing and improperly handling a firearm among other charges, and Cmdr. Mark Olson of USS The Sullivans was relieved in September after firing inert rounds close to a civilian fishing vessel that he had mistaken for a towed target.
Navy spokesman Lt. Matthew Allen said that the Navy is always concerned when a commanding officer is relieved of command. The Navy tries to learn from each instance and take those lessons into the training and selection process, he said.